Overweight and obesity are common problems today as rates keep increasing across the globe. Weight loss is possible, but for many people, it’s easier said than done. You see, all people are different and approach to this problem in a different manner. Some people experience difficulties losing weight due to a lack of motivation. Strong willpower is vital for everything we do in our lives, and weight loss is not the exception. Various factors influence our motivation; increase and decrease it. Depression can contribute to a lack of motivation to do something you’d really like to achieve. How to cope with that situation? How to lose weight when you’re depressed and not motivated? Learn more below.

Depression overview

Before we can even begin discussing weight loss and motivation when depressed, it’s important to address depression itself mainly because this mental health problem is largely misunderstood. Depression is defined as a mood disorder indicated by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

The disorder affects the way a person feels, acts, behaves, thinks, and it has a negative impact on their relationships, physical health and wellbeing, and overall quality of life. While many believe depression is something a person can easily “snap out of” that’s not the case.

Depression isn’t just a feeling of sadness that comes and goes; symptoms of this disorder are persistent and potentially severe (1).

Numbers show that 300 million people worldwide have depression while 16.2 million American adults suffer from this disorder. In other words, 6.7% of adults in the United States have depression, and it is estimated that about 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives (2).

Depression and weight gain

A common misconception is that depression just makes you feel sad and that’s it. This mental and emotional health problem affects your wellbeing in more ways than one. Depression can jeopardize your health in many ways as it’s associated with a higher risk of many diseases and health conditions. But, what about weight gain? It appears that depression and weight gain often go hand in hand. For instance, studies confirm that obesity increases the likelihood of developing depression (3). Vice versa also happens, i.e. depression can enhance the risk of overweight and obesity. For instance, CDC reports that 43% of adults with depression are also obese and both problems were more common among women (4).

Despite the fact that two-way relationship between depression and weight gain has been confirmed by many studies the underlying mechanisms are still unknown. At this point, it would be difficult to pinpoint a certain cause of this relationship with utmost certainty. A combination of different factors could be to blame including stress, overeating to deal with various emotions, lack of physical activity, and many others.

Role of physical activity, weight loss in depression management

Depression is a serious problem. Persons with depression sometimes struggle to get out of bed in the morning, they have no motivation or interest to do anything, and the feeling of sadness is severe to affect their everyday life. Although a severe problem depression is still manageable. There’s a lot of patients can do to feel better and manage the symptoms they experience. If you’re depressed and also overweight or obese, you may want to start increasing activity levels and exercising. A growing body of evidence confirms that physical activity has a significant role in depression management. Regular exercise elevates your mood, improves sleep quality, and increases overall satisfaction (5). Not only does physical activity improve depression management but it also reduces the risk of depression at any age (6).

As you’re already aware, physical activity and exercise are absolutely crucial for weight loss. One reason to get motivated to work out is that slimming down can also contribute to more effective depression management. Research confirms that weight loss is strongly associated with improvements in mood among depressed and obese adults (7). In other words, slimming down can aid depression management and make you feel a lot better mentally, emotionally, and physically.

How to stay motivated to exercise and lose weight with depression

Now that we know more about depression and its relationship with weight gain, exercise, and weight loss it’s time to start discussing different ways to stay motivated. One of the hallmark signs of depression is a loss of interest and motivation in anything. Depressed individuals find it difficult to focus on work, get up in the morning, so it may be particularly difficult to tell them they should exercise more.

If you struggle with depression, you already know how complicated it is to stay motivated although you do want to do something about your weight and physical activity. Below, you can see different ways you can get motivated to slim down.

Start slowly

A common mistake that people make is that they try to do too much at once. While it may seem like a good idea at first, it can cause a counterproductive effect and lead to loss of motivation and desire to continue. The secret is to start slowly. Instead of pushing yourself to do vigorous activities and work out like a professional fitness trainer, you need to start slow and work your way up. At the very beginning, focus on increasing physical activity levels by moving more and doing some exercises. The goal is to be more active than you were. Once you’re used to this new, more active life, you can start exercising more and more.

Do something you find enjoyable

When it comes to weight loss and exercise, options are endless. We have plenty of exercises to do and workouts to try. Don’t do some exercise for the sake of it, do it because you like it. Somehow we’re led to believe that only certain types of exercises or activities can help us lose weight and eventually manage depression. Then, we do things we don’t really like and end up losing our motivation to continue. One way to avoid this scenario is to find exercises, activities, and workouts you find enjoyable. There’s always something you like, exercises and activities you find fun. Focus on those particular activities, and you’ll notice motivation keeps growing. That’s because you’re doing something you like and it’s natural to want to keep doing it.

Exercise when it’s convenient for you

In most cases, people have a strict workout schedule. They exercise at a specific time of day every time. While for many people this type of schedule is practical, it may not be the case for persons with depression. You see, individuals with depression may feel even more stress that leads to loss of motivation if they’re subjected to a strict exercise schedule. That’s why persons with this common mental and emotional health problem should exercise when it’s convenient for them. Don’t pressure yourself to exercise at a specific time of day. Give yourself some liberty to work out when you feel well enough to do so. This is important because some people find their symptoms are worse in the morning while others in the afternoon or night. So, one size fits all rule doesn’t apply here. At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you feel.

Set goals

The sense of accomplishment does wonders for a person’s mood. When you achieve a goal, you feel better instantly and are motivated to keep going and doing more. That’s why a useful tactic to strengthen willpower to lose weight when depressed is to set small and achievable goals.

Start with something small and easy to achieve, then set the other goal and the next one. The more you work toward achievement of your goals the more motivated you’ll be. Then, start with bigger goals with smaller milestones. Challenge yourself bit by bit, don’t overdo it.


One of the biggest symptoms of depression is social isolation. A person with depression doesn’t want to spend time hanging out with other people due to their persistent feeling of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and other signs. Although hanging out and socializing with someone may be the last thing on your mind right now you should still do it. Spending some time around other people, i.e. in the gym may help you feel more focused on the workout. Plus, socializing is good for your mood too. Therefore, in order to stay motivated to lose weight when you have depression, you may want to spend some time with other people (8), connect with people in the gym, sign up for a class like yoga, options are endless.

Avoid sleeping too much

Sleep is important; we all know that. However, too much sleep is as bad as too little good night’s rest. Getting too much sleep can, in fact, make your depression even worse. This also means it can aggravate symptoms associated with this common mental health problem. Although there comes the time when all you want to do is sleep, you should still strive to do something such as take a walk or go for a jog.

Exercise will also boost your energy, keep you alert, and help you focus more on your work, life, and you name it. As a result, you’ll feel more motivated at the same time. It’s needless to mention sufficient sleep is important for weight management as well.

Inspect your relationship with food

It’s not uncommon for people to use food to alleviate emotional problems. Emotional eating is a common occurrence, especially among persons with depression which could explain the subsequent weight gain. Eating too much is usually followed by an incredible sense of guilt and feeling of worthlessness where a person believes they don’t deserve anything better. As a result, they don’t feel up to exercise or any other type of activity. To improve motivation for successful weight loss when you’re depressed, you need to inspect your relationship with food.

Take a few moments to think about that subject. Do you use food to deal with your emotions? Do you feel guilty after eating? If so, you may want to start changing the way you eat. Avoid binge-eating, late night snacks, and focus on a well-balanced diet. You’ll notice improvements in your mood and motivation too. It’s needless to mention successful weight loss also requires a proper diet.


Millions of people around the globe have depression, and many of them are overweight or obese. Overweight and depression have a two-way relationship. Weight loss and increased physical activity levels are important for diabetes management. Even though it may seem difficult to stay motivated to achieve these goals you can make it happen. Focus on small and achievable goals, analyze your relationship with food, and start small by exercising when you find it most convenient. Step by step, and you’ll get there.